Secrets of a Professional Christmas Tree Decorator

Tips for making your tree the best it can be this holiday season.

Rule No. 1 for decorating a Christmas tree: Anything goes.

Sandy Baldwin has served as the Christmas buyer at Russell's Garden Center in Wayland for the past 17 years. Understandably, she knows a thing or two about decking the halls.

"The biggest mistake is biting off more than you can chew," Baldwin said. She doesn't believe that a room with a cathedral ceiling must have a cathedral-ceiling height tree. If a 6-foot tree is all you're willing to decorate, Baldwin said, than a 6-foot tree is the right height for you.

Here are some additional tips when it comes to decorating your own tree. Keep in mind, these are general rules of thumb. It's really all about what you like, Baldwin said.


- Estimate using 100 lights per linear foot. If you have a 6-foot tree, about 600 lights should do the trick.

- Consider buying an extension cord with multiple outlets that can go down the trunk of the tree. It will make plugging in those light strands easier.

- When putting lights on the tree, start at the top. Light an artificial tree in the sections into which it breaks down. That way you can leave the lights on the tree when you take it down to store it for next year.

- The trend in lighting is to use LED lights, though incandescent are still available. Clear, or white, lights are still the most popular, though demand for colored lights in on the rise.

- Consider using a strand or two of novelty lights -- bubble lights, color-changing lights, etc. --  in addition to your regular light scheme to add interest.

Color Scheme/Theme

- Traditional red, green and gold remains a popular color scheme. All white trees are also timelessly popular.

- If a single tree will be a focal point in your house for the season, select a theme that compliments your decor.

- Purple is a popular color choice right now.

- Decorate with a collection of something similar. Birds and animals are popular themes year after year.


- Garland lends continuity to the tree.

- Think outside the box when it comes to what your string around your tree. "You get a lot of bang for your buck with ribbon."

- Estimate 3 yards of beaded garland (one strand) for every linear foot of tree (ex. For a 6-foot tree, use six strands (18 yards) of garland.)

- There are varying schools of thought regarding when to put the garland on the tree. Some people prefer to string it before ornaments, which helps keep the ornaments the most dominant decor on the tree, while others prefer to string garland last, which will draw more attention to the garland.


- A 6-foot tree at Russell's will hold at least 100 ornaments.

- Ornaments made of more natural materials, such as felt and brush, are growing in popularity.

- Save money by purchasing a boxed set or two of ornaments to fill out a tree with other, more individualized ornaments.

- Don't neglect the center of the tree when hanging ornaments. Put them deep in the tree.

- Consider adding movement to the tree with a rotating ornament motor. These plug directly into your light strand (remove a bulb and replace it with the motor).

- Be conscious of pets and children. Hang "prize ornaments" high on the tree and out of reach.

Toppers, Skirts and More

- Stars remain the most popular tree topper, though angels are making a comeback. Consider proportion when selecting your topper.

- A ribbon bow can be used as a topper, as can floral picks, Santa hats or really anything else that suits your taste.

- Choose a tree skirt that matches your decor, or just use a nice sheet from your linen closet.

Baldwin said she thinks of a Christmas tree as a giant floral arrangement with form, filler and a focal point built in layers.

"There are just so many options."

Check out the photos for examples of the various tips Baldwin discussed.


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